SILVER SPRING, Md. - Dozens of people protested the shooting of an unarmed black man by a Montgomery County police officer in Silver Spring.
There is police body camera footage showing 41-year-old Robert White’s last moments before he was fatally shot by the officer, but it has not been publicly released by police. However, Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger has reviewed the video and said it shows White continuing to assault Officer Anand Badgujar while he was on the ground in a townhouse community on Three Oaks Drive.
Meanwhile, Regina Thomas, a longtime family friend, told FOX 5 that White may have been suffering from mental illness or a disability, and he usually walked through the area and nearby neighborhoods to get around.
“I just heard on the news and then my son from work texted me to say someone thought it was him and I said, ‘I hope not,’” Thomas recalled. “But it turns out it was, so it’s a very sad thing.”
Thomas is still shocked to hear her son’s childhood friend was killed Monday afternoon about a mile away from his home.
Cellphone video from a neighbor shows the scene just after shots were fired in a parking lot off Three Oaks Drive. Police said Officer Badgujar was in the area responding to an unrelated call for service when he encountered White. It is unclear why he approached White, but investigators said body camera footage shows White becoming combative.
They said Badgujar first used pepper spray, but White ran at him and knocked the officer to the ground where White continued to assault him.
Police said the body camera video shows the officer firing his weapon several times.
“I’m very sorry to hear that this happened to him, but he did still live here at the family home,” said Thomas.
She said White’s father was a reverend and his mother was a retired D.C. school teacher.
On Tuesday evening, dozens gathered in downtown Silver Spring to protest the shooting and to demand the release of the police body camera footage worn by Badgujar, a two-year veteran of the department.
“Regardless of the identity of the officer, it’s a white supremacist system and so that is what we are really challenging and it is unfortunate that in this case it is a South Asian American and we will not stand behind that person simply because of their identity,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, director of national policy and advocacy of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).
White did not have a serious criminal record.
As protocol, Officer Badgujar has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer and Councilmember Marc Elrich have released statements expressing their concerns about the shooting.
Riemer said in a statement:
“I want to assure the public that all nine Councilmembers are paying close attention to the officer-involved shooting that occurred yesterday. We have requested the body camera footage that is part of the ongoing investigation. Anyone with information regarding this shooting is asked to contact the Major Crimes Division and may remain anonymous.”
Elrich said in a statement:
"I received the very sad news last night regarding the loss of a life in an officer-involved shooting yesterday in Silver Spring. The police have released a statement and as the details of the case are brought forward, we will have greater clarity about what happened and, more importantly, how and why it happened.
"The family and friends of the deceased, Mr. Robert Lawrence White, are in my thoughts. Like everyone I am especially concerned about an officer-involved shooting of an unarmed individual. This has to warrant the highest level of attention and thoroughness in the investigation and I expect the camera footage to be released as soon as practical, given the investigation. The family has every right to expect access to every bit of information available as soon as possible and they should expect an outcome where justice is served.
"As the County moves forward in the investigation I want to be sure everyone understands the process. As many have heard there is footage from both the officer's body worn camera and the camera of the second officer to arrive on the scene, which is being reviewed. Footage of this nature is so important in an investigation like this, which is why I was committed to supporting the Police Chief's request for cameras for all of MCPD's sworn officers. There were also several witnesses at the scene who have provided their statements to the investigators. Our officers all receive special de-escalation training in hopes of diffusing crisis situations and avoiding confrontations that can turn deadly, as this one did. The officer’s actions in this regard will be critically important in understanding what happened here. I anxiously await the results of the investigation into this tragic encounter.
"Once all the evidence has been gathered it will be turned over to the Howard County State's Attorney's Office, who will then decide how to proceed with the case. This arrangement was agreed upon a few years ago to help ensure that there is no sense of partiality because of the close working relationship between our State's Attorney and the Police Department. The Montgomery County State's Attorney's office staff work with our officers on a daily basis, which is why it's best that a final determination be made by Howard County's State’s Attorney. That is why I supported this arrangement when it was proposed by the County Executive.
"The officer involved has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, which is the standard protocol with an officer-involved shooting. All camera footage was immediately turned over to Major Crimes and it will be preserved for the investigation. Additionally, the footage is likely to be released to the public once the initial investigation has been completed. Part of that process will involve the family of Mr. White, who will have a chance to see the footage before it is released to the public.
"I understand the anxiety and anger that the shooting of an unarmed black man engenders. I deeply regret that this incident occurred, and we will thoroughly examine our protocols and procedures in the light of this tragedy."